Knollwood CC’s unique 19th hole. Photo by Dave Donelson
Westchester’s second-oldest golf club moves into its 127th year under new management by Heritage Golf Group in Elmsford.
One of Westchester’s oldest golf clubs got a new owner this year. Knollwood Country Club, founded in Elmsford in 1894, is now under the management of Heritage Golf Group, a boutique golf management company with nine country clubs in its portfolio.
Heritage CEO Mark Burnett says the company plans a minimum of $4 million in capital improvements to Knollwood, which it acquired from the members under terms of a long-term lease with an option to buy.
“This club is such a gem,” Burnett says. “When you walk down the hallway and read about all the things that have happened here, it’s really inspiring. We look forward to bringing it back to life with our management team and the skills they bring to the club.” Knollwood is one of several clubs in the county where membership has languished in recent years. It was managed in the last couple of years by Troon Golf, but the members decided on a sale to Heritage as the best way to ensure its future.
As soon as weather permits, Burnett says, “we will immediately start with improvements to the golf course.” Several tee boxes will be refreshed, long-deferred tree work will be done, and cart paths will be resurfaced right away. Some low-lying drainage areas will be addressed as well. “We don’t anticipate changes to the way the course plays, though,” Burnett says. “We really like the classic layout. It’s what this place is all about.” Knollwood completed a major redo of the course five years ago that restored many of the details of the Seth Raynor and Charles Banks design that had been lost over time.
Much attention will be paid to the amenities and facilities, according to Burnett. Phase one, which begins immediately, will refresh the private events side of the clubhouse with new carpet, paint, lighting, and a redo of the bar. The men’s and ladies’ locker rooms will get the same upgrade and be ready for member use when the club opens this spring, pandemic conditions permitting.
Phase two will include extensive remodeling of the main clubhouse building. The Turnesa Room will become an expanded family dining space with several special features. The grill room where Clifford Roberts and Bobby Jones reportedly planned the first Masters Championship will get a makeover as well. An outdoor half-bar will be added as will a large outdoor seating area with firepits and large-screen TVs. The tennis area will be fixed up and pickle ball may be added. Cabanas will be built in the pool area along with other enhancements. This work will take place at the end of the season to minimize disruption of the member experience during the summer.
Phase three is in the planning stages and will address use of the building that currently houses the pro shop, cart barn, and pool snack bar. Burnett says, “There’s lots of things we can do in that building including simulators, fitness, and things like that.”
Burnett points out that Knollwood will remain a private club and he expects to keep most of the current members. There is a lot of room for growth, however. Pricewise, he says, “We will be in the upper-middle tier of the market. We want to be accessible to all but still aspirational. It’s all about the price/value/quality equation.”
And price isn’t the most important factor, according to Burnett. “Like all full-service clubs, there will be different groups within the membership. We try to be the best when it comes to programming in golf, tennis, and aquatics so we can attract members with interests in each of them.” He adds, “The club is well-positioned to appeal the young executive golfer, who will be the family member of the future. We’re thirty minutes from Manhattan, which isn’t a bad market to tap into.”
The new management team at Knollwood includes General Manager John Cavaliere and Head Professional Nate Oberhofer, both of whom come most recently from Scottsdale. Long-time Knollwood head pro Bob Miller will become Professional Emeritus at the club.